These days, one could rent just about anything when producing a theatrical production. Need a backdrop? Rent. Costumes? Rent. Props? Rent. Wigs? Rent. Lighting? Rent. The entire set? Rent. You can even rent the whole orchestra by licensing the use of a pre-recorded soundtrack. And there's nothing wrong with taking the rental path. I mean, why reinvent the wheel?! But that's why Quad City Music Guild’s latest – and determinedly non-rented – production of Shrek: The Musical is so ogre-ly impressive.

When you see a show and your biggest “complaint” was that the wine was too purple, you know you’ve seen something special. The Mississippi Bend Players have brought their A-game to the stage with the world premiere of Beginner’s Luck, a comedy that's not afraid to ask the big question “What do you want from life?” and manages to be completely satisfying without actually delivering a resolution.

“Mazel tov!” to the Timber Lake Playhouse and its cast of Fiddler on the Roof for eloquently executing this enduring musical with great passion and precision. The full company of performers, directed by William Hayes, delivered a terrifically entertaining production filled with traditional Jewish-dance numbers that were very well done, and I found myself fully engaged during Saturday's matinée performance – not only with the original Broadway choreography reproduced by Jessica Chen, but with each characters’ precarious plight.

Saturday night's performance of Thesmophoriazusae was a bit like the talent show at the end of summer camp. Featuring a lot of inside jokes, jabs at society as a whole, and many familiar faces, director Bob Hanske’s production serves as the wacky capstone to Genesius Guild’s summer of entertainment in Lincoln Park.

W.C. Fields was famously quoted as saying, “Never work with children or animals,” probably because they're scene-stealing and completely unpredictable. And they certainly were, in the best way, when Thursday's opening-night performance of composer Lionel Bart's Oliver! played to a sold-out crowd at the Clinton Area Showboat Theatre. At the show's start, dozens of exceptionally talented children, playing half-starved orphans, stormed the stage with empty bowls in their hands singing “Food, Glorious Food,” and this classic tale of struggle and hardship was immediately delivered with skilled, scene-stealing, completely unpredictable song-and-dance performances.

Does a wild hellhound prowl the moors of Devonshire? Leave it to the brilliant detective Sherlock Holmes (Alex Rudd) and his distinguished assistant Dr. Watson (Max Bahneman) to solve this legendary case of an alleged curse in Ken Ludwig’s Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery at the Timber Lake Playhouse. In a totally marvelous theatrical display of talent and special effects, Saturday’s matinée performance was one of the best non-musical productions I’ve seen in a long time.

I grew up listening to ABBA's Gold: Greatest Hits (thanks, Mom!), so I felt right at home at Friday’s opening-night performance of Mamma Mia! at the Circa '21 Dinner Playhouse. But loving the iconic ABBA is not a prerequisite to enjoying director/choreographer Michael Matthew Ferrell’s fun-filled production.

A real-life confession: I typically spend Sunday evenings at home watching Netflix, so spending it in Lincoln Park with Genesius Guild's production of The Merchant of Venice was a refreshing change. While it is known as one of William Shakespeare’s “problem plays,” and I would agree with that assessment, this performance was still a great way to forget thinking about Monday.

A disappearing body, missing evidence, blood on a chair, and a pursuing investigation – so goes the spirited comedy BusyBody, written by Jack Popplewell and directed by Joe DePauw. Sunday’s matinée performance at the Richmond Hill Barn Theatre was rife with lively slapstick and subtle humor, taking us into the world of Mrs. Piper (Jackie Skiles), a spunky office cleaning lady who has stumbled her way into a murder mystery.

It’s not often that I walk away from a show thinking about who I am as a person and how I can do better. Yet that is exactly what happened Friday night after the Playcrafters Barn Theatre's production of Clybourne Park, and director Alexander Richardson should be proud of his thought-provoking, darkly comedic production that demands more of its audience than the usual area-stage fare.

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